I had coffee with a friend on Tuesday. We started meeting to discuss ways we can help each other with some of the individual projects we are working on. It was really nice to see her, it’s been awhile, and working for yourself you start to miss having somebody to yell to over the copy machine – hey, what do you think about this? Not surprisingly, it turns out that her big passion, or so as not to totally speak for her when she’s not here, the thing she’s working on now is something I’ve been thinking about a lot too – how to change the way we measure success from a scale based on profit to one based on sustainability. So we started talking about that, and in short order, the conversation turned to Occupy Wall Street.
Tuesday was May Day and Occupy Wall Street General Strike Day. Something like thirty thousand in Manhattan. Occupy is still here. Actually, Occupy never left. I’ve had several people ask me about OWS since the day in September when the Occupiers were not-so-gently removed from Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan. Will they be back? Does this mean it’s over? What are they doing now? So, here are my answers (and they’re just my answers I’m not an Occupy expert) to those questions – They never left. Only if you let it. What are YOU doing now?
The other questions about Occupy, mostly asked by people who never attended an Occupy event, or looked much further than the first paragraph of an article dismissive of Occupy written by a journalist who had spent little or no time at any Occupy events – always start with something along the lines of “I wish they would have….” “They really need to …..” “They’ll never accomplish anything if they don’t….”
Well, guess what? There is no “They!” No, that is incorrect – the “They” is you, the “They” is me, the “They” is all of us.
This is what living in a democracy means – we are all responsible. If you want to let the “They” do everything for you, whether it’s a movement or the running of your government, because you don’t want to have to do the work of being an informed and active citizen, then go for it. Don’t be too surprised if you wake up one day to find that that government you assumed was running smoothly, isn’t. Or it is, running quite smoothly in fact, but not for your benefit, just for the benefit of a tiny percentage of the population. Oh, wait, we already have that.
In The Nation magazine, Allison Kilkenny wrote in her piece, “Massive May Day Turnout Highlights Media’s Disconnect from Reality,” “none of us are capable of understanding the trajectory of this movement precisely because nothing like it has existed before.”
So if you think Occupy has “failed” then it has, because it’s failed to get you out of the observer seat in your arm chair and mobilized to do something about something you care about. If you think the Occupy movement should be focused on campaign finance reform – then you need to get involved in the campaign finance reform movement. Money out of politics? I’ll send you links. The problems with Wall Street that led to the 2008 Lehman Brothers meltdown, which in turn was the catalyst leading to the depression we are still in? Read the 325 page document written by people active in Occupy and sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission. It’s a pretty remarkable document actually, and you’ll finally understand what “propriety trading” is. Sustainability? Email me.
OWS energized me. It still does. And not because people marched and “boom” everything was suddenly wonderful. No, OWS shone a light on the things that are wrong in our country, and it did it creatively, passionately, and in an instant, everything changed. Where will it lead? I don’t know, but I do know it won’t be the place we were headed before, and that is a good thing. But you can feel free, it’s still the U.S.A. you have the right, to be a cynic, to be a naysayer, to sit back and complain that nobody ever does anything right.
Or you can stop being an observer and start participating. It’s up to you.
We are unstoppable. Another world is possible.